A video of the Boston Dynamics robot Atlas is amazing the world largely because it is capable of running and jumping just like a human. The robot may be missing a head, but that does not prevent the four-limbed robotic marvel from going for a jog or jumping over a log. It’s so amazing that even Elon Musk may start worrying about an impending robot AI apocalypse.
The fact that the Atlas robot can jump over a log is perhaps not too surprising if you consider that the same Boston Dynamics design was shown doing backflips last year. The battery-powered robot uses hydraulic actuation and measures 1.5 meters in height (almost five feet tall) and weighs 75 kilograms (or 165 pounds). The robot can pick up to 11 kilograms using its 28 joints. Even if Atlas is pushed over onto its side, the robot can stand back up on its own.
“Atlas is the latest in a line of advanced humanoid robots we are developing,” says Boston Dynamics on its official website. “Atlas’ control system coordinates motions of the arms, torso and legs to achieve whole-body mobile manipulation, greatly expanding its reach and workspace. Atlas’ ability to balance while performing tasks allows it to work in a large volume while occupying only a small footprint.”
Boston Dynamics used 3D printing to create the robot’s parts, which resulted in a “remarkable compact robot with high strength-to-weight ratio and a dramatically large workspace.” The robot sees its environment using LiDAR and stereo vision so it’s capable of manipulating objects and traveling over rough terrain all on its own.
The second Boston Dynamics robot that was shown off is called the SpotMini. The dog-like robot is four-limbed and has the ability to climb up and down stairs all on its now. Boston Dynamics did say that an operator had to steer the robot through the course so it could map out the area in its memory, but when the video was created SpotMini was able to operate autonomously to navigate through all obstacles.
The Boston Dynamics SpotMini was designed to operate in offices, homes, and the great outdoors. It’s relatively short at 0.84 meters (almost three feet) and its weight is 30 kilograms. Unlike the Atlas, it uses 17 joints powered by electric actuation instead of hydraulics. The battery life is 90 minutes and it is capable of carrying up to 14 kilograms.
The SpotMini is similar to the larger Spot but it also has an optional five-degree-of-freedom arm that can allow it to pick up and handle objects.